Friday, December 3, 2010

Koh Tao - Thailand

Having arrived in Koh Tao (literally translating to 'Turtle Island') to do the four day PADI Open Water Course, we ended up staying on to rack up a total of seven days in order to complete the Advanced Diver qualification that allows you to dive to 30 meters.  We saw loads of amazing creatures, and as we decided to do underwater photography as one of our advanced modules we hired a camera and got some good pics.  It was great value, plus we had the time and we had definitely caught the diving bug!  The Advanced Diver certification should keep most options open in the future should we decide to enjoy further underwater pursuits!  All of this came in at under four hundred quid including accommodation and transport from Bangkok, not too bad at all!

Hawksbill sea turtle seen when diving off Koh Tao

The island itself is small but postcard beautiful, the majority of it being covered in palm trees with only one main bumpy puddle-filled 'road' that requires constant dodging from side to side in order to avoid the motorbikes and a fair few quad bikes rampaging along every couple of seconds.  The view from the beach consists of hills and lush greenery with occasional wisps of fog.  Because we usually had classroom in the morning followed by diving in the afternoon we didn't get to explore a great deal.  Instead we got to know the West side of the island extremely well which includes a handful of slightly more expensive than Bangkok but not necessarily better restaurants, bars and very friendly, clingy local dogs.

View from the Coral Grand Dive School

Swimming with a sea dog

There was a full moon party whilst we were here, but not the kind that you would expect.  The locals offer their own twist in order to refute the rampaging boozy tourists that flock to the other 'party' islands such as Koh Samui or Koh Pha Ngan.  Instead they offer a more chilled 'F**k the full moon' party.  There was an amazing fire show with young lads swinging and tossing balls of fire on chains and sticks to each other, with guests encouraged to use to neon face paint and sip a cocktail or two albeit still very chilled.  The relaxed atmosphere and entertainment whilst lanterns flashed on the sea all contributed to my idea of an ideal night out.  Everybody here is extremely friendly, there are many westerners who have even decided to settle here and I can definitely see why.  Ask any western-looking resident their profession and there is a 90% chance that they are a diving instructor.  All in all an amazing place.

We head out tonight on an overnight boat, followed by a bus with our final destination being Krabi in the south west of the country.  From there we head on to Koh Phi Phi (including a stop off to Koh Phi Phi Lee, the island where 'The Beach' was filmed) and then on to Phuket.  From there we have booked a flight with Air Asia up to Chiang Mai on the 10th December which came to about 2,300 Baht (around 50 quid) for a two hour flight.  Update to follow, turtles rock!

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